Rejuvenated Spurs climb towards safety
Tottenham boosted their Premier League survival bid as a first-half goal spree earned a 3-1 win over fellow strugglers Stoke at White Hart Lane on Tuesday.
Both clubs started the game at the wrong end of the table but first half strikes from Aaron Lennon, Jermain Defoe and Michael Dawson gave Spurs a first league win in seven games and moved them away from the relegation zone. James Beattie's second half strike was little consolation for Stoke, who have now gone nine league games without a win and are yet to register an away win since their promotion to the top flight.
Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp handed a debut to Italian keeper Carlo Cudicini after his move from Chelsea but fellow new arrival Pascal Chimbonda was unable to play as his deal was not completed in time. The hosts started at a frenetic pace with midfielder Luka Modric fashioning the first opportunity. The Croatian international twisted past a couple of Stoke tackles before firing a 20-yard shot wide of the left post.
Tottenham's defensive weaknesses were exposed when Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross met a rising corner but his header was cleared by Didier Zokora. A goal seemed sure to come and so it proved in the seventh minute when winger Lennon put the home team in front after being sent clear by a smart pass from Defoe.
The former Leeds man motored his way into the penalty area before slipping a neat finish past Thomas Sorensen. That strike boosted the home team and their pressure was rewarded in the 20th minute when Defoe scored his third goal in four games since moving from Portsmouth. A loose ball from Potters defender Danny Higginbotham was collected by Modric and his pass was helped on to Defoe, who wasted no time unleashing a powerful shot which gave Sorensen no chance.
The City defence was being run ragged by Modric, who set up a third and decisive goal four minutes later. The former Dinamo Zagreb player was given too much time from a short corner and his cross was headed powerfully into the net by Dawson.
Tottenham's fans scented blood and were nearly celebrating again moments later but Defoe was denied his second by a last-ditch clearance off the line. The one-way traffic continued as former Blackburn midfielder David Bentley had a free-kick well saved and Roman Pavlyuchenko fired a low shot past a post. Pavlyuchenko's shoot on sight policy came close to paying dividends shortly after the half-time break but his vicious 25-yard drive was well caught by the overworked Sorensen.
Stoke were given a glimmer of hope in the 57th minute when Beattie took advantage of static Tottenham defending to score his first goal since his move from Sheffield United. Formers Spurs winger Matthew Etherington played a long ball over the top which Beattie ran onto before guiding a solid finish past Cudicini.
The home team had a strong shout for a penalty when Defoe appeared to be bundled over in the area but referee Mike Riley waved away the appeals much to the anger of the home bench. With Modric dictating the pace of play, Stoke found it hard to launch a late fightback and their brief forays into Spurs territory petered out.